When our son was young, his national standardized test scores came back in the 30th percentile nationally. Shocking moment for a mom, right? He hated school. Most days he would cry after school. My husband and I had intense late night conversations about what to do.
We did not tell our son about his scores. We met with his teacher, we signed him up for additional work after school, we read out loud to him and supported him at home, but we did not tell him his scores because we did not want him labeling himself as stupid, as less than.
Because labels have power.
Eventually, at our son’s request, I found a way to home-school him for two years, at significant cost and inconvenience, and it was a beautiful thing. His online school tested him and determined he was a kinetic learner – he has to move to process – life changing information.
While home-schooling, he played outside multiple times every day. He sought out teachers online – God bless youtube and Khan Academy. He painted and painted and painted, he sat in the thicket of weeds that border our house and sketched bugs, he did science experiments on our kitchen table with his dad on the weekends. He would study spelling lists while running up and down stairs.
I did research on achievement – nutrition, exercise, reading – and I would introduce these supports into our son’s life, but without ever telling him what I was doing.
And I continued to tell him he was amazing and wonderful. Because he is. And I continued to tell him how proud I was of his work and his efforts. As often as possible I would say it out loud while other people were listening. “I am so proud of your hard work and discipline! You are such a great student. I love how important your learning is to you.”
Three years ago, at his request, he went back to a traditional school.
This year, his first in high school, his nationalized test scores were in the 90’s. High 90’s, no less. His most recent report card is straight A’s and three of those A’s had a plus sign after them.
Your words have power, Mamma. Your vision of your child, who you tell them they are, has so much power.
To a profound degree, when you tell them who they are, they will believe you.